Juno

This is a tough review to write.

The short version would simply say: Juno is perfect. The long version would involve me rhapsodizing about every single scene. Let me see if I can settle for something midway.

For those of you who know nothing of the movie, it involves a teenage girl named Juno who winds up pregnant after having sex with her best friend Paulie, decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. She finds what seems like the perfect couple: Mark and Vanessa Loring. However, as time goes by, she finds that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

What distinguishes Juno right from the start is how smart the dialogue is. It is a rare movie that packs so much wit per minute of running time. There has been some criticism about this, in the sense that people seldom talk this way in real life. That is true, but I think we go to watch movies like Juno and Pulp Fiction because it has people who speak the way we wish people did in real life.

However, it is not all one-liners either. Watch the quiet little scene involving Mark and Vanessa where she wonders what colour to paint the nursery walls, and Mark responds with gentle sarcasm. There is such economy in the writing, and such delicate and wonderful timing in the way the actors bring the scene to life. Or the scenes where you see the pressures of having to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and the criticism of her peers slowly getting to Juno. Or the little exchange between father and daughter right at the end that moved me to tears. I could go on.

The beauty of it is, it all seems so effortless and obvious. The movie starts off funny and pulls out the heavy artillery in the second act, but never does it seem forced. That is fantastic writing, and Diablo Cody richly deserves the Oscar she got for Best Original Screenplay.

Much of this works because the acting is top-notch. J K Simmons and Allison Janney are fantastic as Juno’s parents. Michael Cera brings a certain quiet charm to the proceedings as Paulie. Jennifer Garner gives a performance that may just be career-defining. And Ellen Page as Juno deserves much better praise than I can possibly come up with in my most rapturous mood.

The beauty of Juno is that, above all else, it loves its characters. By the time it ends, every character is exactly where he or she should be, and you couldn’t be happier for them.

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7 thoughts on “Juno

  1. Sagarika says:

    Ramsu,

    All I know about “Juno the movie” is that I watched this funnily dressed young woman with spiked-up color-coded hair walk up to the podium during the Oscars (that I finally managed to catch on TV this time after a 5-year hiatus for reasons I can’t recall now) and acknowledge her stauette with (her eyes misting, voice quavering) this first line: What is happening? This is for the writers, and I want to thank all the writers. And this last line: I want to thank my family for loving me exactly as I am. That’s it…I was hooked. I could somehow completely relate although she was nothing like me…and I wanted to see Juno, so VERY much. And one of these days, I bet you, I will.

    And thank you Ramsu, for telling it like it is, once again!

  2. Rajendran says:

    Not that I am going to say anything new about Juno. The great thing about Juno is its ultra witty dialogues. In my opinion, its the movie version of the Dylan song, “Just like a woman”. Juno is a complete contrast to 99.99% of American teenagers and collegegoers. She breaks all stereotypes that I come across daily which is why the movie stands out.

    The plot per se is quite banal but the dialogues give it a completely new image. I particularly liked some music references in the film, especially the reference to the little remembered “Spinal Tap”.
    And yes, good review sir. I liked your analysis of the Mark and Venessa sequence. A subtext well pointed out amidst the glamour of Elaine Page.

  3. Raj, Thanks, machi. Nice Dylan reference, btw 🙂

    Pri, I went through Diablo Cody’s blog and her writing is in some ways similar to how Juno speaks. Assuming she speaks the way she blogs, your prayers have been answered!

    ~r

  4. Shalu says:

    Hey Ramsu
    I loved Juno too. But, after I got over the initial honeymoon phase and actually thought a little about the movie, a few things struck a discordant note with me (not that it will stop me from recommending this movie to my friends!).
    1. The concept of teenage pregnancy is dealt with almost a little too playfully in this movie. Not once in the movie does anyone (Juno, her parents, her boyfriend) sit down to actually think about the consequences of getting pregnant while in school. The part about having a real live baby inside is somehow pushed to the background and made almost inconsequential, what with all the smart one-liners dispersed evenly throughout the movie.
    2. Juno seems to be totally OK with giving up her baby without any qualms whatsoever. I have spoken to many teenage moms here in CA and am yet to come across that kind of flippancy (or lack of maternal emotion) when the baby is actually in front of you! And, as a mom, I can tell you from personal experience that it is almost impossible to give up your baby once you see him/her, no matter if you are 30 or 15. Those damn hormones released during delivery make sure that you are bonded for life!
    3. The role of the “boyfriend” was weak and a little spineless. So, I was quite surprised that she ended up with him at the end of the story. He did not display any character (in my mind), which qualifies him as a “keeper”! Given that Juno was such a smart (or smartass?) character, I was quite disappointed to see her end up with him again!
    However, the one thing that stood out for me even at the end of this dissection was the lovely song from Barry Polisar “All I want is you”. Check out the lyrics online. It is probably the most romantic song I have ever heard in my life. Might want to write that up for your GEF..will definitely earn you some brownie points!
    Cheers
    Shalu

  5. Shalu,

    Upon further reflection, I agree with you on some of those points. I think it wouldn’t have been so easy for a mother to give up her child, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

    However, I don’t think the movie shortchanges the seriousness of teenage pregnancy, really. It uses humor to deal with the situation, but at various points, you see the facade crack to reveal the emotions within.

    Take the scene where Juno tells her parents that she is pregnant. Her dad says he is disappointed in her, and that he thought she was “the kind of girl who knew when to say when.” Look at her reaction, and how she struggles to respond to that. Or the scene with her dad in the end, when he says, “Someday, you’ll be back here, on your own terms.” It is a quiet line, and the reaction to it isn’t very drastic either, but I wouldn’t underestimate its potency.

    Given this plot, I think the movie could’ve either taken a very dramatic route (which is what nearly every other filmmaker would’ve done), or taken this route. I think it made the right choice, because it didn’t really cop out on the emotions, just created a wisecracking facade to hide it well for the most part.

    I checked out the Barry Polisar song – quite nice. But the one that captured my heart was the one in the end – Anyone else but you by The Moldy Peaches. It’s not even that the lyrics made much sense to me — it just worked, somehow.

    ~r

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